Good Habits, Bad Habits

GOOD HABITS, BAD HABITS: The Science of Making Positive Changes That Stick
by Wendy Wood
October 2019 – Farrar, Straus and Giroux (US)

We spend a shocking 43 percent of our day doing things without thinking about them. That means that almost half of our actions aren’t conscious choices but the result of our non-conscious mind nudging our body to act along learned behaviors. How we respond to the people around us; the way we conduct ourselves in a meeting; what we buy; when and how we exercise, eat, and drink ― a truly remarkable number of things we do every day, regardless of their complexity, operate outside of our awareness. We do them automatically. We do them by habit. And yet, whenever we want to change something about ourselves, we rely on willpower. We keep turning to our conscious selves, hoping that our determination and intention will be enough to effect positive change. And that is why almost all of us fail. But what if you could harness the extraordinary power of your unconscious mind, which already determines so much of what you do, to truly reach your goals?

Wendy Wood draws on three decades of original research to explain the fascinating science of how we form habits, and offers the key to unlocking our habitual mind in order to make the changes we seek. A potent mix of neuroscience, case studies, and experiments conducted in her lab, GOOD HABITS, BAD HABITS is a comprehensive, accessible, and above all deeply practical book that will change the way you think about almost every aspect of your life. By explaining how our brains are wired to respond to rewards, receive cues from our surroundings, and shut down when faced with too much friction, Wood skillfully dissects habit formation, demonstrating how we can take advantage of this knowledge to form better habits. Her clear and incisive work shows why willpower alone is woefully inadequate when we’re working toward building the life we truly want, and offers real hope for those who want to make positive change.

Wendy Wood is Provost Professor of Psychology and Business at the University of Southern California. She has written for The Washington Post and the Los Angeles Times, and her work has been featured in The New York Times, the Chicago Tribune, Time magazine, and USA Today, and on NPR. She lectures widely and will soon be launching the website to convey scientific insight on habit to the general public.


“As is evident from Charles Duhigg’s (still) big seller, trade book readers are highly interested in habit. No one has studied how habits form and direct behavior better than Professor Wendy Wood. More important for a trade book audience, she has described how to change negative habits into positive versions better than anybody. She’s the researcher best able to write the next big book on the topic.ˮ —Robert Cialdini

“Wendy Wood is the world’s foremost expert in the science of habit. More than any other scientist, she understands what leads us to do the same thing over and over again, how to break our worst habits and how to make good ones. At the same time, she writes in a way that everyone can understand!ˮ —Angela Duckworth

“Wendy Wood is the world’s leading expert on habits—how we make them, break them, and change them. I expect that her book will be both eye-opening and immensely useful in teaching people how to get more done, quit smoking, start exercising, make better choices, and stop annoying their partners.ˮ —Adam Grant